Guyana on Saturday received promising commitments from an enthusiastic visiting delegation from Saudia Arabia but President Dr. Irfaan Ali was not so keen on round table discussions as he talked up Guyana as one of the brightest and most attractive investment destinations in the world.
“You are pushing at open doors,” the Guyanese Head of State said as he promised, in turn, the removal of bureaucratic red tapes and favourable terms and conditions for investment.
The 65-member strong Saudi delegation of private and public sector officials was led by Deputy Minister for Investors Outreach, Mr. Badr Al Badr, who said that the country was ready to help Guyana, a key partner in the Caribbean region, to grow bigger and faster.
President Ali welcomed the offer but said future business relations between the two states must be a win for both countries.
While publicly pressed by the Saudi officials for special incentives, Dr. Ali assured them that they would be treated no less than any other foreign investor in Guyana.
“You will not be looked at or treated in a lesser manner.
“We are not hooked on any ideology and any partner by superiority or ethnicity… partners who we embrace are those with principles and values and those who give Guyana the best possible deal,” Dr. Ali said.
But even as he welcomed the investment and partnership, he asked the visiting delegation to understand that the country wanted to move away quickly from discussions.
“We can’t wait to catch up. If you want to be partners and you are ready to be partners then let’s take the conversation forward.
“Let us not go in circular motions… let’s put our people in a room and come up with areas and agree to remove all the barriers in that area,” Dr. Ali told the gathering.
Among the areas Guyana has highlighted for investment as articulated by Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh are energy, infrastructure, housing and urban development, information and communication technology, agriculture and tourism.
“Let’s put together a team from the private sector and government agencies and get this thing done,” Dr. Ali said.
He urged Mr. Badr to say what and the amount of money from the Saudi Investment and Development Fund that could possibly be made available for Guyana.
“Let us talk about how to establish the Fund here. With that money, we can start the process of pushing projects forward.
“If there is a development fund for small businesses, we are ready. If there are funds available for agriculture, we are ready… if you don’t come and invest now, it will be too expensive to do it a year and a half from now. The ball is in your court,” Dr. Ali said.
The Head of State in admonishing the investors said Guyana no longer needed to sell itself even as Dr. Singh boasted of the country’s oil wealth of 11 billion barrels of proven reserves and still counting.
That has placed Guyana as the fastest growing economy with the third-largest reserves in Latin America and the Caribbean and the 17th in the world.
“If you want a partner that will work with you in a decent, honest, reliable and transparent manner then you have a partner in Guyana,” Dr. Ali said.
The President’s address was well received by the visiting team and Mr. Badr assured that Saudi Arabia was “ready to capture the low-hanging fruits” in Guyana,
“Your future is unusually bright… we are delighted to have this and our meeting will enable us to examine in more detail ways to do deeper investment and our trade and business stakes,” Mr. Badr said.
He said Saudi Arabia was ready to present Guyana with options to use its oil to build and diversify the economy.
“From all I have seen and heard, there are opportunities for this to be a substantive and mutually beneficial relationship.”
He too presented the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a good partner for Guyana noting that the country had the 16th largest economy in the world, up from 19 just a few years ago.
He said there are large Saudi companies ready to work with Guyana in energy, manufacturing, tourism, health care, construction and retail developments.
“We have companies that can also bring the know how in the use of technology to become major oil producers and minimise emissions… we can add value and know how in navigating the complexities in dealing with major oil companies.”
Mr. Badr said the visit on Saturday was the start of a historical moment between the two countries, promising that there was “more to come.”
“We must not let this opportunity pass us by, we would capture this golden opportunity,” he added.